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Archive for 7 December, 2010

on my race and gender soapbox

I’ve been reading some interesting things lately and thought I’d share a few. Although, I may have got a little snippy writing this post. And by ‘may’, I mean I did and by ‘snippy’, I mean I got pissed off.

a bit of a race rant

Hidden from public view: The experience of Chinese communities in Britain (PDF) (from ENARgy 34 – “Forgotten” ethnic minority groups and communities in EU policies and debates PDF) – European Network Against Racism

A couple of alarming points:

  • Between one-fifth and one-sixth of the UK Chinese population has experienced racial harassment or violence. This is a higher proportion than the figure for any other ethnic minority in England.
  • Chinese people between the ages of 16-30 were more likely to face racial violence than other groups.

I must admit, this surprised me. My association with the British Chinese community is tenuous. Not non-existent but it’s very tangential to my every day life and for the most part, I don’t have a group of Chinese friends. I live in a very mixed neighbourhood but those of East Asian* ethnicity are a lot less present than other Asian or Afro-Caribbean races. So I’m used to being very aware of racism against those groups, usually on the news rather than any personal witnessing. Racism against the British Chinese, not so evident.

I was discussing this with a friend, saying that I was interested to know what the breakdown was between ‘harassment’ and ‘violence’. As, while both obviously objectionable, one is worse than the other. I was saying, “I’ve never experienced violence but obviously harassment is a semi-regular occurrence.”

Then I paused and replayed the sentence in my head. Man, that “obviously” is depressing.

I don’t want my supposedly liberal, accepting, tolerant nation to be a country where it’s “obvious” that anyone should experience racial slurs.

I want the general public to realise that it’s just as unacceptable to use the C-word (not that C-word, the other one that ends in ‘y’ and has an ‘ink’ in the middle) as it is to use the N-word, and not, as heard in Angel recently, something you can shout about going to in the middle of the street.

I am tired of how all Chinese story-lines in films and TV seem to involve martial arts experts, a tea ceremony, the Chinese Triad or a combination of all three. (I am looking at you here, makers of Sherlock. Your first and third episodes were awesome, why ruin it?)

And when on earth do we get our own category on the public services ethnicity forms? If we can have Black British and Asian British, then I don’t see why, considering the UK has the oldest Chinese community in Europe, we can’t have Chinese British. We’ve been present in the country for at least two centuries!

on media reflecting the real world

On a less depressing but relevant note, for their Christmas season, H&M have some new in-store banner adverts with a pair of East Asian models. I literally did a double-take, this is how rarely I see this.

I have generally assumed that probably one of the big reasons for why we don’t see many Chinese (or other East Asian) models, is due to the height thing. We tend to be smaller and models are usually expected to be tall. The America’s Next Top Model supposedly ‘short’ season called for girls under 5’7″, which is still taller than average. I don’t like it but it seems like a more general failing in the modelling industry than it is race-specific.

Still, I do genuinely think it’s important to have images in media and popular culture that represents the world we live in, especially in light of the “forgotten” ethnic minorities discussed in the above ENAR report.

Oh, and if all Nativity scenes could depict groups of Palestinian Jews around the baby Jesus in that manger, that would be excellent, ta.

My feminist chatter involves both ups and downs, politics, science and a Scottish campaign video.

two steps back, one step forward on the women’s front

I am angry at the Coalition government for a lot of things these days, not least the assessment over how much worse women are expected to be affected by the budget cuts. So, I find the news that the Fawcett Society have filed a legal challenge to the cuts pretty exciting. It does sadden me though that essentially this is fighting to retain equality rights that were already established. The intent of a lot of the child and care benefits provided was to allow women and children to be able, if needed, to survive independently of a male-provider but the economic decisions are definitely not evenly distributed, no matter what Cameron might say about how we’re all in this together.

a writing exercise to remove the gender gap

Happily, I am very excited by a paper that was recently published out of the University of Colorado, that essentially demonstrated that the gender gap in sciences can be closed with an entirely unrelated writing exercise: How a 15-minute writing exercise closed the performance gap between men and women in a physics class. It’s always gratifying to read a paper that lends weight to male and female differences mostly being a load of crap. Similarly, I’m pretty tempted to read Rebecca M. Jordan-Young’s critique of existing studies, Brain Storm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences, but worry it might be a little over my head.

take back the tech!

I’m a little late to be blogging about this but I do think the Take Back the Tech campaign is a good thing. I will admit to not really being sure about how to get involved and I’m pretty certain that the few people who might read this aren’t going to disagree with the general sentiment that gender-based violence is unacceptable. Still, seeing as I’m here, I am also going to take the opportunity to stress that rape is never the victim’s fault and no woman ever “asks for it”.

* I usually favour ‘Oriental’ but I know a lot of people don’t like it. I personally am averse to ‘Asian’. It’s a bloody huge continent that spans such a wide-range of people and especially here in the UK, more often refers to the Indian sub-continent than ‘East’ Asia and I just find East Asian kind of clumsy. We need some new language here.

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